I spoke to him the night before he died. I called to see how he was feeling. He sounded a bit scared. He said his back pain was bad and he just felt horrid all over--but his plan was to take the CT scan from the US to his doc appointment in the morning and ask to be admitted to hospital.
I suggest he go right now. What was another day? If you feel that bad, just go.
Then I remembered my hubby was headed to London the next morning to see his father. So I suggested that he could go with my dad to the doctor's ---drive him to the hospital--that way he didn't have to worry about parking and getting in. My dad was a proud man. He thought this sounded silly.
I continued to bring up the possibility of going to the hospital right now. He was also stubborn. So I told him I loved him and those were the last words I ever said to him.
My husband called him back and suggested the plan again---assured him it was not a problem---told him he would sit in the car, or come in with him or whatever he needed as he was already going to be in town. There was silence on the line....then my dad said "That seems like a awful lot of trouble".....more silence....."Thanks..."
My husband decided to leave that night instead of the next day and before he was half way to London my step mom called and told me that she was taking my dad to the ER. He was throwing up and couldn't stop.
Once he was there and settled in an ER bed I called my husband and asked him if he could please, please stop in just to see how he was.
He did. And upon seeing my husband walk in said, "What the hell are you doing here? Oh right, your dad." The deal was my dad was given a sedative and something for the pain and a resident took a quick look at the CT scan. He told my dad whatever it was, it didn't look good...but they would develop a plan for what to do in the morning. My dad seemed good with that. My husband left. My step-mom kissed him good night.
In the morning while I chatted with my step-mom before she left to go see him, my dad got up to use the bathroom---had a pulmonary embolism and died in the ER. The coroner reported he was full of cancer---started in the intestines, then liver, lymph nodes--and was probably six months beyond any treatment.
I comfort myself sometimes by thinking ---if my dad has to choose---THIS would be exactly how he would have wanted to go. No nursing home, no diapers, no baldness, no long drawn out illness that had everyone looking at you with those sad eyes of pity. There were no family member there when it happened which I think would have also made him happy. No sense in leaving that as a last memory. Instead, I try to focus on the last conversation we had and the last words we exchanged.
I love you.
That carries me through.
Below is the speech I gave at his memorial service. I wasn't sure I would be able to do it but it was important--so I did. I kept out a lot of mushy stuff as my dad was not mushy and neither am I. I wanted to share a story of the last time we were together. Father's Day. We got together on holidays --and the odd birthday here and there but Father's Day, for as long as I can remember--if we were in the same province--we hung out. Usually it was brunch--but the last two years of his life we did Father's Day at an airshow as my dad loved planes and flying. One year I bought him a membership to the Canadian Warplane and Heritage Museum in Hamilton that included a ride in a Stearman Bi-Plane--this exact one right here.
My dad, was always “the man with a plan”. And once he HAD a plan…you just do NOT…mess…with the plan!
He liked to know the objective.
He liked to know what was going to be expected of him.
He liked to know when everything was going to start—and end.
He liked to have contingencies lined up and he liked to know where the emergency exits were.
This past May I found out the Snowbirds were performing at the Waterloo Airshow—on Father’s Day weekend. I sent him a note to ask him if he would meet me there for Father’s Day.
He e-mailed back-- sounds like a plan! The pressure was on.
Thursday before Father’s Day weekend Dad called me and said “it’s almost the weekend, how are we going to do this ? who’s coming? what’s “the plan”?
I told him “About 5 minutes ago I e-mailed you a link to the airshow. It outlines the schedule for the day. They say the roads get very busy by 11—so we will meet at 10—you can pick up Keri at 9—I will have Jake with me as Alex has an exam on Monday. We can look around for a couple hours, have lunch around and the show starts at 1.”
He replied “Oh, ok. What about parking”?
I said, “there is a second e-mail after that –that includes a map to the parking lot and I your parking pass—just print it out and show it to them when you get there.
A shuttle bus will pick you up at the parking lot and take you and Keri to the airport. I will call you when I arrive and we will coordinate once we are inside via our blackberries.
He replied “Oh, ok. Where do we get tickets?”
I said, “There will be a third e-mail with tickets for you and Keri attached. Just print those out and bring them.”
And all that’s in my e-mail?
I said “Yup—that’s that plan!
Sunday came, we parked, we shuttled, we connected, we wandered.
At Dad and Jake read the “I Spy Book’ while my sister and I found us some lunch.
It got hot—I bought us GIANT popsicles.
It got hotter ---I found fresh squeezed lemonade.
Dad said he was tired and would probably go before the snowbirds flew.
But instead….we sat.
- we talked about Jake starting French Immersion in the fall
- we made plans for he and Alex to go to the Air Combat Zone’s simulators to do some dog fighting and how he swore THIS time he would kick Alex’s butt
- he told me about the planes that used to fly over his house when he was a kid
- we talked about how he was having a hard time sleeping
The snowbirds flew---we packed up---he held Jake’s hand while we waited in the long line for a shuttle back to car. We said our goodbyes and we both made it home in good time.
The next day he sent me a note.
Thanks so much for yesterday. I had a great time and really enjoyed us being together. Even got some sleep last night. Love you.
My dad always appreciated a good plan.
THIS………..was NOT PART OF THE PLAN.